MTPR History

Montana Public Radio began in 1965 by University of Montana Journalism professor Phil Hess. KUFM-FM started as a small student training facility, a part-time operation, dependent on the availability of students and volunteers. With 10 watts of power, the station barely broadcast past the campus boundaries. Today MTPR is a media network serving all of western and central Montana with eight transmitters, five translators and digital content.  We broadcast to a population of about 500,000 Montanans, with an estimated weekly audience of 65,000-70,000 listeners. We have about 7,600 members who support the station financially, providing around 62% of our annual operating funds.

How our network has grown:

  • 1965 Began broadcasting part-time as KUFM, a 10-watt student training facility within the School of Journalism at The University of Montana in Missoula. Programming was dependent on class assignments and the interest of students and volunteers.
  • 1972 New transmitter raised power to 4,000 watts.
  • 1973 Tower and transmitter moved to Big Sky Mountain (Snow Bowl Peak), 11 miles north of Missoula. Power increased to 14,500 watts.
  • 1974 Expansion grant from Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) helped pay for upgrade in facilities and staff. KUFM became a National Public Radio affiliate and began broadcasting 18 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • ​1976 Translator installed on Continental Divide to bring signal to Butte.
  • 1979 Translator installed in Marysville to serve Helena area.
  • 1982 Translator installed on UM's Aber Hall to serve north Missoula.
  • 1984 KUFM's sister station, KGPR, came into existence when a transmitter and small studio were installed in Great Falls.
  • 1985 Translator installed in White Sulphur Springs to carry the KGPR signal.
  • 1986 KUFM signal from Big Sky Mountain upgraded from mono to stereo.
  • 1988 Translator installed on Swan Mountain to serve the Bigfork and Swan Lake areas.
  • 1989 Translator installed on Big Mountain to serve Whitefish.
  • 1990 Stereo signal to Great Falls, Helena, and White Sulphur Springs upgraded to digital.
  • 1993 Corporation for Public Broadcasting grant awarded to study possibility of expanding Montana Public Radio signal.
  • 1994 Federal grant awarded. This paid for 75% of the cost of a huge signal extension project. Capital campaign undertaken to raise the 25% grant match.
  • 1998 MTPR's first website was built
  • 1999 Four new transmitters  in Kalispell, Hamilton, Butte and Helena, and a new translator in Dillon were turned on as the culmination of the signal extension project. Signal distributed by satellite.
  • 2004 Launched website version 2
  • 2010 Federal grant awarded for first service in Libby, MT and improved service in the North Flathead as well as an upgrade to our satellite uplink system, and our primary production studio - Studio-B.
  • 2011 New transmitters KUFL-Libby and KPJH-Polson (named for Philip J. Hess) completed.
  • 2012 Improved service in the North Flathead completed (KUKL Kalispell),  Missoula translator moved to top of UM's PARTV Building and power increased to serve all of the Missoula valley.
  • 2013 MTPR's new Core Publisher website launched.